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We meet Senegalese artist and Artist's Resale Right ambassador, Laye Ka

Laye Ka at the Dakar Biennale.
© DACS 2022.

In May, DACS had the privilege of attending the Dakar Biennale and meeting Senegalese artist Laye Ka who is the recipient of the inaugural Ousmane Sow Artist’s Resale Right Award.

The award honours CISAC’s former Vice-President, sculptor Ousmane Sow, and celebrates artistic and aesthetic work whilst also bringing attention to the Artist's Resale Right, yet to come into force in several countries across Africa. This year the award was presented by the Senegal President Macky Sall to the winner, Abdoulaye (Laye) Ka, who will now act as an Ambassador to raise awareness and support for Artist’s Resale Right.

Laye Ka is a visual artist born in Senegal in 1977. He graduated in 2006 from the National School of Arts and currently works in Casamance in southern Senegal. He has participated in several collective exhibitions of the Dakar Biennial and won first prize for the 10th exhibition of the Biennial in 2019 with his work Sentinels.

Here Laye Ka tells us about his work, upcoming projects and his role as Artist’s Resale Right Ambassador.

Can you tell us about your work?

I care a lot about the identity of the individual and for several years now I have been interested in the theme of claiming and defending identity. I thought a lot about how to represent this idea of identity, until one day my attention was drawn by chance to a barcode on a package. This was the start of my use of barcodes in my work - I now collect them on different types packaging and apply them to the canvas in a chromatic and graphic style.

What projects do you have coming up?

I am currently working on an exhibition project called Sunu Jamono (Our Generation) where I plan to tell the story of the discography of one of the most emblematic groups in the history of Senegalese music, Super Diamono.

They were founded in the early 70s and their sound is very different from Mbalax, the popular Senegalese dance music, instead taking their influence from local sounds and jazz. Lead vocalist Omar Pène is also known for his singing technique and his rather unique voice and many big names in Senegalese music have been involved with the band including Bob Sène, Bayla Diagne, Lamine Faye, Pape Dembel Diop, Doudou Konaré and Lappa Diagne.

I’m a big fan of the masterful work that this group has achieved over the past 50 years. I plan to retrace their career by translating some of their titles and albums into a visual art work. For those who know the density of the band's discography, it is a big task, but I'll try!

You recently won the Ousmane Sow Award and you are now a Resale Right ambassador. Can you tell us about your new role?

My role as an Artist’s Resale Right ambassador is to raise awareness about this right which is not yet in force or well known in Senegal or West Africa generally. It will be a question of encouraging visual artists to become members of the collecting societies in their respective countries so that they can claim the advantages of the Artist’s Resale Right. This will encourage the law to be adopted in these countries. If it is applied, the Artist’s Resale Right will allow artists and their estates to better benefit from their art and it will allow artists to become more professional by securing a share in their work.

What advice would you give to younger artists starting out?

My advice to artists is to invest a lot in research because what makes the strength of an artist is your originality and singularity. Artistic practice is not easy and it takes a lot of endurance to get what you want out of it. And above all, stay yourself; it's important.

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